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Media hubs review

We compare 10 media devices for playing high definition files on your TV.
 
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01.Introduction

Media hub

Test results for 10 media hubs priced from $229 to $585

These days it seems that just about everything is going digital and high definition (HD), but if you create or download HD content to your computer, how do you get it over to your TV?

You could use a media centre PC with networking, but these can be expensive, and not everyone has an Ethernet or wireless networking extending to the loungeroom. But the volumes of data required for HD are often more than the bandwidth wireless devices can provide, at least for real-time streaming. That’s where HD media hubs (also known as media tanks) come in.

For more information on digital storage see, Computers and accessories.

Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


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What are they?

An HD media hub is essentially a portable stand-alone multimedia storage unit, often with a hard drive, that can take files directly from your computer and play them on your TV. They provide connections for both computer and TV and contain their own "smarts" for playing various multimedia file formats. Some HD media hubs have a hard drive built-in, while others can be fitted with a hard drive of your choice, or even connect to an external hard drive.

Typically, you would:

  • Connect an HD media hub to your computer
  • Copy to it the files you have created or downloaded
  • Then simply take the HD media hub and connect it to your TV for playback

Other functions

  • Some provide networking support, which can also be used to copy files across to the device’s hard drive
  • Play audio, act as a jukebox, or display slide shows of images
  • Stream internet radio
  • YouTube video access
  • Integrated BitTorrent client
  • DVR (digital video recorder)
  • Memory card reader

Models tested

We bought and tested 10 HD media hubs to see which offered the best features and ease of use.

  • Apple TV 160GB
  • DViCO TVIX HD M-6500A
  • Egreat Networked HDTANK EG-M31B
  • HDX 1000
  • Iomega ScreenPlay Pro HD 1TB
  • LaCie LaCinema Rugged 500GB
  • Galaxy STAR-DMA332
  • Mediagate MG-800HD
  • Popcorn Hour Networked Media Tank A-110
  • Western Digital WD TV
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